My last minute change of mind paid off in spades.
The film sounded depressing, bluegrass wasn't calling to me, so why not spend a rainy, cold evening enjoying dinner in the neighborhood? Maybe I could even dig up some company.
Heading out for a bite. Are you around?
If you don't mind that I haven't showered today, because they haven't turned my hot water on yet!?!
Hell, I didn't care if he hadn't showered all week, I was just happy (and surprised) that I could message him at 7:15 on a Friday night and hear back that he'd meet me in 20 minutes.
Arriving at Lucy's, I found the tables full and the bar with one lone guest, an older gentleman eating dinner. Naturally, I took the bar stool right next to him and he seemed pleased for the company.
Within minutes, we were marveling at the coincidence. He lives in Montross, half an hour from where my parents live on the Northern Neck. Not only that, but in 1954, he and his father had surveyed my parents' small village, a place most people have never heard of.
While he ate (and raved about) his "non-spaghetti and meatballs," we discussed a host of topics: going to Redskins' games, that he'd had a double bourbon at his hotel before coming over (he doesn't like blended whiskeys) and that he was in town for the Episcopal Council, which he explained they are now calling the Episcopal Convention "so it doesn't sound so Civil War-like."
His affinity for bourbon and whiskey was, he said, a direct result of his Scottish heritage and when he learned mine was Irish, he chided me in a thick brogue for not having a drink in front of me. Given my Irish roots, he strongly suggested I try Redbreast 12 Year Single Pot Whiskey.
When I asked him if he knew that tomorrow is Robert Burns' birthday, he stood up and began reciting to me in a loud, clear voice.
My love is like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June
My love is like the melody
That's sweetly played in tune
Since it's not every day that a man recites poetry to me, I thanked him profusely and asked how it was he knew the entire poem. He said he used to recite it to his wife when he was courting her 48 years ago.
You can't help but compliment a man, not only his romanticism but on such a long, successful relationship, but I was also curious about why theirs had worked.
"I told my wife I had loved several women before I met her, but I'd never liked one as much as I liked her." No doubt about it, the man had a way with words.
We had plenty of time for more because my friend had called the restaurant to have the bartender let me know he had misplaced his wallet and was running behind. "Running behind a good-looking woman, probably!" my new friend cracked.
"Smelly and tardy," the bartender, who knew my friend well, joked.
I was surrounded by comedians.
But he did arrived shortly thereafter, in time to meet my Scottish-blooded friend and bid him farewell as his cab back to the hotel arrived. "Get her a drink, will you?" he asked of my friend. "She needs some whiskey!"
What I needed was food, so our first order of business was ordering. We both agree that the meat and cheese plate is the most unique in town (on tonight's was medium-rare skirt steak, toothsome and flavorful) and added to that the 404 pickle-brined chicken wings and the winter salad of kale, fried Brussels sprouts, toasted pine nuts and lemon vinaigrette, a combination so good we agreed it was crave-worthy.
Since it had been months since we'd gotten together, we chewed and caught up at the same time (sorry, Miss Manners). I knew he'd moved into the house he'd bought (hence the lack of hot water) but wanted details of progress.
The kegerator is hooked up and functional, he informed me. He already foresees summer parties with white wine in it and friends like me in attendance.
Maybe it was while he was telling me about his dating life (upcoming) or perhaps when I was hearing about the architectural detour his job may take that I heard two familiar voices behind me and a favorite couple showed up to take the two stools next to me. "Your bangs look perfect!" he joked instead of his usual comment on their length.
I'd wished for company and it was coming out of the woodwork tonight.
They offered me a glass of their Rose (why not?) and took our recommendation on the meat and cheese plate (the sounds of pleasure coming from her were reminiscent of "When Harry Met Sally") while my friend and I went back to our conversation.
He was interrupted and asked to look up and provide the VCU game score (they won) while explaining to me that his generation feels compelled to Facebook stalk someone before they date them. Call me old school, but I consider this tragic.
It was relevant because he was soliciting my advice on which restaurant best suits a first date. He didn't want anyplace near her house because she probably already goes to them regularly. He didn't want a place where he knows most of the staff. And he didn't want to risk certain Ethnic cuisines in case she was a picky eater.
Although, I say go for it. He was telling me that he once took a girl out to a trendy place only to learn she didn't eat beef, most vegetables or anything much besides chicken breasts. "Once she told me that, the date was pretty much over," he said, grimacing. I'm with him on that one.
When we turned our attention back to the newly arrived couple, they gave us their thoughts on what works and doesn't in the Devil's Triangle, how much they want to eat at Perly's and why they didn't go to the Jewish Food Festival (parking issues last year).
Then they graciously shared their apple crisp a la mode with us while Holmes explained about disco-era Rolling Stones songs to all of us and questioned why he never hears his favorite Steve Miller song ("Space Cowboy") played. Some questions have no answers.
It wasn't long after that all three of my friends began packing up to pack it in after early wake-up calls and full days at work. Hugs all around while I went over to chat with another favorite couple at the end of the bar and the others headed out into the rainy night.
I stood with my coat on as we talked, until finally they insisted I sit down, have more wine and chat for real. Why not? My day had gotten a late start and I had no place to be.
So many unsolved mysteries! Why would a restaurant with a focus on catering not participate in bridal fairs? How important is it for a restaurant to have someone focused on social media? Do people really pay off concierges at hotels? How many flasks are too many?
Next thing I knew, it was almost midnight and the place was closing down.
And to think I began this evening thinking I was going to go sit in a darkened theater by myself. I'd have missed so much: poetry, compliments, sarcasm. Advice on whiskey and a steady stream of friends.
'Twould have been a waste...of bangs and all those conversations I apparently had inside of me.